* “Speed is not the object. … Nobody knows how things turn out, but certainly this was a great day. This was a very legendary, very historic day.” That was vintage Donald Trump-speak after setting foot on North Korean soil to rekindle his beyond-bizarre bromance with Kim Jong Un. It was about autocrat coddling in a worldwide spotlight while he was in the G-20 neighborhood. But the actual bottom line has not changed. Can this Apprentice president–while globally elevating the stature of a thug-murderer–ultimately make something meaningful happen? As in an actual written agreement–sans self-serving ambiguity–that actually defines and implements “denuclearization”? All that rides on it is everything.
No, “speed is not the object,” but timing before the 2020 election just might be a factor.
* We all know somebody who voted for Trump.
But it’s not like knowing somebody who voted for George Romney or John McCain or would have voted for Jeb! Bush, Jon Huntsman or John Kasich.
We have our political differences; this is our system. We know the democratic script. Even if a bit begrudgingly, we come together while remaining in ideological disagreement. But nobody ever thought the Romneys, McCains, Jeb!s or Kasiches were pathologically unhinged, narcissistic, immoral existential threats–merely opposing-party candidates with a different take on the economy, the role of government and foreign policy. There was a place for undemonized compromise. Partisan didn’t mean poisonous.
But having said all that, how do we handle it when our neighbor, our colleague, our client, our family member is a Trumpster? We’ve all experienced it. It is part of our abnormally abhorrent, new normal. Here’s one scribe’s experience.
I know I can’t convert a cult follower, a stock market zombie or an spineless, quisling GOPster. I know I am not alone. So I try keeping it apolitical and civil and avoid awkward discomfort and counterproductive confrontations. But I do invoke a Trump-induced standard: Respect withheld. Yeah, that goes for a neighbor as well as a family member.
* “Don’t meddle with the election.” That was Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Japan. Too bad it was publicly accompanied by a smirk, a finger point and a blatantly joking manner. But that’s how you handle your handler.
* “I think my base is so strong, I’m not sure that I have to do that.” That was Donald Trump’s response, during a recent Time magazine interview, to a question about him reaching out to swing voters. Trump, who lost the popular vote in 2016, remains the only president in the history of Gallup polling to never crack 50 percent approval.
* “If it was up to him, he’d take on the whole world at one time, OK? But that doesn’t matter, because I want both sides.” That was President Trump’s reassurance, of sorts, that we shouldn’t be overly concerned about John Bolton, the hair-trigger hawk who he appointed national security advisor.
* “The White House is afflicted by mental retardation and does not know what to do.” That was Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Normally that would be unconscionably inappropriate language to use in any international forum. But there’s ample precedent. Not that long ago North Korean leader Kim Jong Un referenced the American president as the “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.” Remember when words used to matter?
* “I just don’t know about the case.” That was Marco Rubio’s self-serving answer when asked for his take on allegations of sexual assault against Trump by writer E. Jean Carroll. It was a calculated response aimed at the Trump base, which could still linger on in 2024 when Rubio hopes to be back on the GOP presidential hustings.
* Mark Esper, the acting secretary of defense, recently met up with counterparts in Brussels to hash out NATO’s role in the looming Iranian crisis. Esper’s goal was to convince allies to take a harder stance against Iran. You have to wonder what the dynamics were like for Esper, given the U.S. role in unilaterally pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and his next-guy-up, acting status as defense secretary. Quite possibly: “Who are you, again?”
* “No.1, she’s not my type. No.2, it never happened.” That was the president’s revealing, hierarchal response to the E. Jean Carroll sexual-assault charge. The all-too-familiar bottom line: Trump would never, ever sexually attack somebody who wasn’t his kind of hot babe. Presumably, that prioritized denial goes for all 16 of the women who have made allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump.
* This just in: The White House is developing a plan to cut taxes by indexing capital gains to inflation. According to the Penn Wharton Budget Model, the top1 percent would receive 86 percent of the benefit. That should certainly please Trump’s populist base.